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Discovering the Nature of Prayer

Prayer creates miracles, transforms lives, and changes the world. From The Source of Miracles: 7 Steps to Transforming Your Life through the Lord’s Prayer by Kathleen McGowan

Something magical happens when we pray that I certainly cannot explain. I am happy enough to stand in awe of the divine and to celebrate its presence on earth every single day. But I do know that prayer creates miracles. I know that prayer transforms lives and changes the world. And I know, not because of blind faith, but because I have witnessed it at work, over and over again.

Theologians around the world and through time have filled pages on the nature of prayer. I will give you my own very simple definition here:

Prayer is our means of celebrating God while reinforcing our connection to the divine and our destinies to create a world on earth as it is in heaven.

When we pray, we reinforce our faith. We put our energy toward God and goodness and helping others. That can only bring about positive results. When we pray for someone other than ourselves, we increase that power exponentially. While Shane was in intensive care, there were groups all over the world, from all denominations, praying for him. I don’t just believe that those prayers impacted his healing — I am certain of it. I have seen the miracles wrought by “prayer circles” on many occasions. For a number of years I hosted a spiritual discussion forum online with about six hundred members. An impromptu “prayer group” arose out of that community. When anyone had a specific worry or ailment — some life-threatening, others less dire, but all important to the individual requesting aid — we would agree to pray for that person. Time and again in the microcosm of my little online world, we saw the powerful and positive impact of these group prayers. I could write books about all the miracles I have witnessed and never run out of material.

The power at work here, the force behind all prayer, is love: love for each other and love for God, which is what Jesus repeatedly emphasized as the two greatest of all commandments.

Note that my definition does not say that prayer is a place where we ask God to give us things. I’m not saying that you can’t or shouldn’t ask God for what you need. I’m saying that this shouldn’t be the only time that you pray! Many people pray only when they want something. Prayer is a way for us to get closer to God, to celebrate God’s Presence in our lives. We should pray every day for the sheer joy of it. When it is a regular practice, your prayer requests will be that much more powerful when you do make them.

We are not closer to God when we are blindly asking for something. We are closer to God when our prayer is made in the spirit of thy will, not mine, be done. This is why Jesus tells us exactly how to pray in Matthew and Luke. He wants us to understand how it must be done to be effective. The true secret to creating miracles through a successful prayer practice is constant alignment to your highest source, your reason for being here on earth, your service to God’s higher good for the planet and its people.

God is many things, but one of these is Divine Intelligence, which is infinite and therefore unfathomable to the human mind. We can contemplate infinity, but we cannot know it. An aspect of faith is realizing that God is much more than we can possibly imagine, and accepting that greatness without challenging it. Every time I think of the synchronicities that occur on a daily basis to get us where we need to be, of the divine orchestration at play in our lives that ensures we meet the right people at the right time, I am in awe.

I was just listening to an atheist comedian on television ridiculing the power of prayer. He asked, “How is it possible that one being can listen to billions of people mumbling prayers and actually differentiate between all of them? Or care about what they are asking, much less act on it?”

I have to admit that our disbelieving comic has a point for those who are still in a place of questioning. Because there is a legitimate question here to be explored, even for the faithful.

Here is how I have come to answer this question. God listens, hears, and responds to all prayers — as long as you are praying in the proper spirit. To put it most simply: you must speak the right language. When you are praying in a manner that is in harmony with the divine mind, you are heard and your prayers are fulfilled. The miracles flow naturally to you from the unlimited source, which is God.

Anything that is inharmonious to God — ego-driven, greedy, or otherwise “sinfully” motivated — goes unheard and unfulfilled. This type of false prayer falls into the category that Jesus described as “babbling.”

So how do you assure that you are praying in the proper spirit? By following the instructions laid out for you by Jesus. Pray for the healing of others often and freely, as you will be instructed, and when you pray for yourself, always finish the prayer with some version of “in a manner that is in harmony with your divine will” or the phrase I use, “Thy will, not mine, be done.” If you pray in the spirit of surrender, in the clear understanding that you are here to create heaven on earth, you will be heard by the divine mind.

Jesus had a lot to say about the nature of prayer, particularly while delivering the Sermon on the Mount to his followers in Galilee, which is where the Lord’s Prayer was first introduced. The sermon itself represents the summation of all Jesus’ teachings. Within it, he taught the secrets of life in a pure and simple form. But it is the Lord’s Prayer that stands out as the single most important lesson of Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus gives us very specific instructions about prayer in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 6, verses 5–15:

“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray…on the street corners to be seen by men…But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father…Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling…for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our father in heaven,
may your name be hallowed,
may your kingdom come,
may your will be done,
as in heaven, so upon earth.
Give us today our sufficient bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.’ “

It is important to note that different translations substitute the word trespasses and sometimes sin in place of debt. Equally interesting is that Jesus ends the prayer with this powerful spiritual reminder about forgiveness that is usually left off and forgotten in the context of teaching the Lord’s Prayer.

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Later, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is asked by one of his disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray.” He responds again very specifically, with the Lord’s Prayer. So we see in scripture that when Jesus teaches us to pray, it is always with these words.

The prayer is perfect. It is our greatest spiritual gift, from the great spiritual giver.

There is no mystery here, no secret. Jesus literally shouted from a mountaintop the only magic words we will ever need to live a life of perfect joy and unlimited abundance!

Two thousand years later, isn’t it finally time that we listened?

Kathleen McGowan is the New York Times bestselling author of The Source of Miracles: 7 Steps to Transforming Your Life through the Lord’s Prayer (Copyright © 2009 by McGowan Media, Inc.), The Expected One and The Book of Love. Her books have been translated into more than thirty languages. She lives in Los Angeles with her three sons. You can visit her website at




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